The judge who sentenced the Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a 23-year-old unconscious woman is facing backlash for the conviction, which many say is too light.
Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, following the recommendation of the county’s probation department, sentenced Turner to six months in jail and three years probation on June 2. Persky cited Turner’s clean criminal record and the impact the conviction will have on his life. The former swimmer must register for life as a sex offender after a jury convicted him of three felony counts of assault and attempted rape.
A petition was launched for Persky’s removal from the bench after the sentencing.
“Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency,” said the petition. “He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors.”
The petition, started by Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber, a friend of the victim, had 263,672 supporters by June 7.
The judge earned two undergraduate degrees from Stanford in 1984 and 1985 and used to play lacrosse at the school a few miles down the road from his courtroom.
But others defended Persky, “He is an absolutely solid and respected judge,” said Santa Clara County deputy public defender Gary Goodman to the Associated Press.
“Persky made the right decision,” he added.
— Diana Prichard (@diana_prichard) June 7, 2016
Meanwhile, Turner is appealing his conviction, a court spokesman said.
Father’s Letter to Judge
Controversy over the case intensified when a letter written by Turner’s father, Dan Turner, was released.
In the statement, he pleaded Persky for leniency before the sentencing, adding that his son has paid a “steep price for 20 minutes of action.”
Turner has left Stanford, whose men’s swim team is one of the top 10 teams in the country this season, and his Olympic-hopeful swimming career has been shutdown.
“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” the father wrote. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
The group End Rape on Campus (EROC) shot back at the father’s statement by saying survivors are the ones who pay steep prices.
— End Rape on Campus (@endrapeoncampus) June 7, 2016
Statistics the group shared shows 31 percent survivors of sexual assault will develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
Turner’s father also said his son has lost his appetite because of the case, saying he “eats only to exist.”
EROC retaliated at the comment in the post saying 30 to 65 percent of those in treatment for eating disorders are survivors of sexual assault.
The assailant was charged with rape and three other felony counts, while rape charges were dropped in October. In March, a jury convicted Turner of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated victim and two charges of digitally penetrating an unconscious and intoxicated individual.
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) June 5, 2016
Victim’s Letter Goes Viral
Meanwhile, the letter written by the victim, in which she described how the incident left her emotionally battered, went viral.
“My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self-deprecating, tired, irritable, empty,” she said.
The incident happened after an on-campus fraternity party on the night of Jan. 17, 2015. Witnesses saw Turner and the victim leave together.
Two graduate students who were on their bikes saw Turner on top of the victim behind a dumpster thrusting hips. One of the students said it looked like the victim was unconscious and that Turner tried to run away when they got closer to check on the woman. The grad students then chased Turner, tackled him, and held him down until authorities arrived. The unconscious woman was taken to a hospital.
The victim, who is not a Stanford student, but a resident of nearby Palo Alto, was so intoxicated that she did not wake up until hours after the attack.
In the emotional letter, the victim described the beginning of the night, when she was having dinner with her family, and decided to accompany her little sister to a party.
“My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself “big mama” because I knew I’d be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast, not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college,” started off the letter, in which she addressed to the defendant directly.
“The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow,” said the victim about waking up after the attack.
The woman said in her letter that she only realized what exactly happened to her after reading the news at work.
“I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize,” she said.
“I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me.”
— Jodeci Foster (@CharlesPulliam) June 6, 2016
The victim also said she did not tell her family and boyfriend what had happened immediately after the incident and tried to pretend that the “whole thing wasn’t real.”
She also said that if she wouldn’t have been the victim, Turner would have assaulted somebody else.
“I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me,” she wrote.
“Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else,” said the victim.
The victim concluded the 12-page letter by thanking those who had helped her, from the intern at the hospital who made her oatmeal the morning after the attack, to the two graduate students who found her and called the police.
She also addressed other victims.
“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you,” she said.
College age women are four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.